On Christmas Eve, we all loaded into the big red van and made the trip to visit the Grandmas. When we were younger, my Grandma Call hosted a yearly Christmas party on Christmas Eve. While it was incredibly important for my grandma to have all her children and grandchildren together, it was torturous for us to mingle and make conversations with relatives that we only saw once a year. The cheek pinching and the "Now, who do you belong to again?" was inevitable, as was the chili with optional noodles that Grandma cooked. Once the excitement died down, we trekked to see my other grandma, where we badgered her with questions about why she didn't have a real Christmas tree, and wound up her ceramic music boxes so that "Oh Holy Night" and "Silver Bells" were playing simultaneously. Once my grandparents had opened their presents, (usually a Peppridge Farm food basket for Grandpa and a book for Grandma) we bounced off the walls until Mom and Dad loaded us back into the van. It wasn't until we were all quite a bit older that we realized that my mom had been stashing presents at Grandma's, and that they loaded the present in the back of the van on Christmas Eve, covered them with blankets and hoped that we didn't see anything.
Once we got home, we opened the one present from our brother or sister, and got sent to bed for the torturous night long wait. One year, my brothers convinced me to set my alarm for 4 am so we could go see our presents. My brother set my alarm wrong, and it went off at 1 am, 2 am, 3 am, etc all night long. My parents used to yell at us that no one was allowed out of their rooms until 6am. I don't know if that ever happened.Santa presents were left unwrapped, arranged carefully in piles with our stocking on top. Bikes, trikes, stereos, all made frequent appearances. After we tore through, opened and examined all our Santa gifts, we put our loot away, had breakfast and then it was "Christmas torture:" every room in the house had to be clean and vacuumed, and we all had to be dressed with our rooms immaculate before we could open presents under the tree. Now, I like a clean room as much as the next person, but I still think that was a little over the top.
As a teenager, my Christmases were filled with music and performances. As a senior, I was in seven performing groups, and I think I counted 21 performance in 13 days. I carried 3-4 uniforms in my car at all times, and vividly remember changing from my Jordan Youth Symphony Uniform (tuxedo shirt, black skirt, red bow tie and cummerbund, (yes, we were stylin', shut up!)) into my Madrigals uniform (black one piece pantsuit with a black embroidered jacket) while stopped at a stoplight in downtown Salt Lake City. It was a crazy busy time, but I was exhausted and exhilarated by the constant performing.
Ashylnn decorating the tree, 2008
Tom and I have had twelve Christmases together. Some have been leaner than others, but there's always been love, excitement, and joy.
I smiled today when I realized two out of the last three Christmases we've had a brand new baby to celebrate with us.
Baby Max in the Christmas stocking
Ian, Christmas 2010, overflowing with excitement
I'm particularly excited about Christmas this year. Not only have I been an online shopping ninja, but I've very excited about the gifts we've secured for everyone. I can't wait to see the kids opening their presents tomorrow, and that anticipation has had me smiling for a month! We've baked cookies, cut out snowflakes, delivered neighbor gifts, and attended several of Abby's Christmas performances. I missed playing Christmas music on my violin so much that I volunteered Abby and me to play a musical number in church last week. We've bought and wrapped presents, and the tree is stocked.
Abby, Abravenel Hall, 2011
My kids today are as excited as I've ever seen them. Abby in particular has so much nervous anticipation flowing through her body that she can't sit still. And here's the funny thing: I remember feeling like that. I remember driving my mom crazy on Christmas Eve asking if we could "Just open one present, please, please, please?" and having her banish me out of the kitchen so she could get things done.
I wonder sometimes if we've done enough. Baked enough, sung enough Christmas songs, read enough scriptures. Have we focused enough on service, love, and what Christmas is really about? Will my kids be able to look back and say their childhood Christmases were magic? I hope so, because I'm fully planning on tomorrow being magical.